Differentiation and Positioning – An Interview with Jack Trout

Jack Trout
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Differentiation and Positioning – An Interview with Jack Trout

Jack Trout is the founder of Trout and Partners Ltd, one of the worlds leading marketing consulting firms. Jack is regarded as one of marketing’s foremost authors and thought leaders too.

He is the author and co-author of many popular books including…  Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!, REPOSITIONING: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis, The Power Of Simplicity: A Management Guide to Cutting Through the Nonsense and Doing Things Right, Jack Trout on Strategy, Marketing Warfare, In Search of the Obvious: The Antidote for Today’s Marketing Mess, Big Brands Big Trouble: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, Bottom-up Marketing, A Genie’s Wisdom: A Fable of How a CEO Learned to Be a Marketing Genius, Stop the Presses: The Crisis and Litigation PR Desk Reference, The New Positioning: The Latest on the World’s #1 Business Strategy & Horse Sense: How to Pull Ahead on the Business Track

In this interview I question Jack on marketing strategy concepts such as positioning and differentiation. Jack reveals…

  • Where positioning actually takes place
  • Why people create mental ladders in their mind to rank companies within a market
  • 2 very different ways to become the leader in your category
  • 4 ways to differentiate your business so you stand out amongst your competition
  • The difference between marketing tactics and marketing strategy (and which is most important)
  • The marketing principle that has enormous power and will help make you unforgettable in your prospects minds
  • Why brands should never try to change their positioning
  • And more. Just click the play button below to listen to the interview...

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Joey Bushnell : Hello, welcome to The Online Marketing Show I’m your Joey Bushnell, today I’ll be talking to a very special guest, Jack Trout. Jack is the author of some of the biggest selling marketing books ever written, we’ll get to those in just a moment. In the mean time to find out more about Jack go to troutandpartners.com.

Jack thank you so much for being with me today.

Jack Trout : You’re welcome

Joey Bushnell : Jack how did you get into marketing and advertising?

Jack Trout : Just by chance, I was getting out of the flying around in airplanes business in the Navy and I decided what do I want to do? So I figured I’d start with some big companies. I saw that General Electric had an advertising in public relations training program. I signed on to that and the rest was history.

Joey Bushnell : So you’ve been in the business for a long time now and you’ve written lots of books in that time how many books have you written on these subjects?

Jack Trout : Well there’s variations and revisions but let’s round it off to about 15.

Joey Bushnell : Just so the listeners know I’m going to name a few of them “Positioning the battle for your mind” was a book you co-authored which is a very important book and also the follow up to that book “Repositioning”. Some of the other very successful marketing books you’ve written include “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”, “Differentiate or Die” “Marketing Warfare” that’s just a selection of some of the books that you’ve written.

Jack Trout : I would say you’ve just named the most important ones.

Joey Bushnell : So in this interview we are going to talk about some of the things you talk about in those books. My first question is what is positioning?

Jack Trout : Positioning is very simply how you differentiate yourself in the mind of your customer or prospect. The key word there is “mind” because it’s all about perceptions. How you get into the mind or how you don’t get into the mind which can be a big problem, is the underlying body of work that all my books revolve around.

Joey Bushnell : In your books you talk about a term called Mental ladders, what’s that about?

Jack Trout : Well people store brands in their mind. In other words you will store toothpaste brands or automobile brands in your mind. You tend to store them on what we call a mental ladder. The first run in the ladder is probably the biggest brand in the category or the one that you think the most of. The second brand is probably the number 2 brand. Hertz is probably the number one rent a car brand maybe Avis is the number 2 brand. The amount of interest you have in a category determines the number of runs you have in the ladder which means how many brands you’ll store.

A Harvard psychologist figured out that nobody stores many more than 7 brands in the mind. But remember they’re not all created equal.

Joey Bushnell : How important is it to be the first in your category, the leader in the market place or the leader in peoples minds?

Jack Trout : The winner is number one. The leadership position on that little mental ladder is the best thing you can have in any category. If you’re a Cola most people will probably say Coke that’s the number one ladder run. As I said in rental cars maybe it’s Hertz. In America if you ask about automobiles you’ll probably end up with Chevrolet as the number one brand. People tend to start with the leader brand that’s why it’s so important.

Joey Bushnell : If you and your business happen to find yourself at number 2, 3 or even further down the pecking order can our businesses survive in those places?

Jack Trout : It gets tough. Number 2 usually gets about half the business as number one, this is in general sometimes it may be closer. Number 3 gets half of number 2 and number 4 gets half of that. The market share numbers dramatically decline. So I’d say 1 or 2 is where you want to be number 3 is ok but it gets very difficult once you get south of those things because there is just so much competition.

Joey Bushnell : So what do we need to do? I know in your books you talk about differentiation is that what we need to do to create a new category for ourselves. Is that how? We become a leader of a different category instead?

Jack Trout : If you are the inventor of something and you are the fist one you automatically get the leadership spot. Not too many people are lucky enough to invent something. So that means you have to think of other strategies to differentiate yourself. I talk about a number of ways beyond leadership there’s attribute ownership in other words you build your brand around an attribute such as Volvo safety. Crest is a toothpaste in America which has cavity prevention so you try to come up with an attribute.

Leadership of course is a wonderful spot. Heritage, if you have been at this a long time you could have a long family history of whatever the brand is you could use that idea. Being a specialist is another way to do it, in other words this is all we do. How a product is made, if you have a unique way to make your product that can be a point of difference. There are a number of ways but all of these things start with your competitor. It’s not what you want to do it’s what your competitor will let you do, so that’s the game.

Joey Bushnell : So do you have any examples where a well known brand was successful because they made themselves so different from the competition?

Jack Trout : My favorite is probably BMW who has pretty much used the ultimate driving machine, the drivability idea on their brand for about 20-30 years. That’s been a very successful game and they have been very consistent. You take your big automobile brands they tend to be built around, shall we say, an attribute for the most part. But leadership, my favorite is very simply Titleist Golf Balls all they say is “number 1 ball in golf”. Very simple, nice idea and they say it over and over again.

Joey Bushnell : On a slightly different note Jack, you mention in your book about there being a slight difference between marketing tactics and marketing strategy so what is the difference there?

Jack Trout : We wrote a book called “Bottom Up Marketing” where we give tactics in marketing. To be honest with you it just confuses people. I say forget it don’t get into this tactics of marketing type stuff.

What you are after is strategy. What is my point of difference? That is what positioning strategy is all about then how do I dramatize that point of difference. How do I take that idea and build it into a story, that’s very important. I wouldn’t get all involved in tactics and strategy the key word is “strategy”.

Joey Bushnell : Why should our marketing be simple and obvious?

Jack Trout : Because that’s how you get into the mind. In other words simplicity has enormous power and obvious ideas are generally simple ideas and the more complicate you make your story the less chances you have of getting into peoples minds.

I’m a great believer and I wrote a book called “In Search of the Obvious” and another book called “The Power of Simplicity”. So I’ve tried to get people to think that way. The trouble with marketing people is if it’s too simple and obvious they say “It’s too simple and obvious” so I say “That’s why it’s a powerful idea” because those ideas get into the mind very quickly.

Joey Bushnell : So generally speaking are we any good at this? Do humans tend to complicate things naturally?

Jack Trout : Absolutely, we have this admiration for complex ideas and they always fail. We have a fear of simplicity and I think how we can bat these natural tendencies is common sense. You have to really use your common sense, a lot of people don’t unfortunately. Again people love complexity and I’d say if you use your common sense in what makes sense. In other words if you were out in the streets of America and tell me what’s a Cadillac, they would say it’s a big car. Yet Cadillac tried to introduce a small Cadillac that just makes no sense that’s not common sense. You’d say to people what is a Volvo they say it’s a boxy safe car. What does Volvo try to to introduce a convertible, well that makes no sense. So that is what I mean by using your common sense.

Joey Bushnell : So would you recommend if you’ve done all the work for your positioning and you are very well known for something you should stick to it there after. Can brands adapt or is that the beginning of the end?

Jack Trout : If they start to change it’s the beginning of the end in other words the best thing you can do is evolve your idea. I’m not saying you can’t improve it and use the new and improved type strategy but don’t change it. Stay with it. Don’t chase other peoples ideas or business that’s where you get in to trouble.

Joey Bushnell : Jack it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you today. I’m a massive fan of your books and I recommend that everyone listening go give them a read because it’s really going to help in their business, so Jack, where can people go to get the books?

Jack Trout : Go to Amazon that’s the simplest place to go. Amazon has them all and you can get them pretty quickly that would be my advice.

Joey Bushnell : And just finally do you have a website people can go and find out more about you Jack?

Jack Trout : It’s Troutandpartners.com

Joey Bushnell : Fantastic. That’s the end of today’s show folks, thank you for tuning in. And thank you Jack for coming on the show today.

Jack Trout : Ok Joey.

You can visit Jack’s website here and you can order any of his books on amazon


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